For many reasons, it’s good to be New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in Boston. However, in light of two recent Massachusetts trial court decisions, it may have been good for him that he was not in court in Boston over the summer when challenging the NFL’s adverse arbitration ruling. Over the space of two weeks in late November and early December, the Massachusetts Superior Court showed a markedly, if not surprising, pro-arbitration bent, as it upheld a party’s right to enforce an agreement to arbitrate, even after eight months of litigation in court, and upheld an arbitral award that applied out-of-state law in conferring multiple damages against a respondent despite a choice-of-law clause in the agreement mandating Massachusetts law. Either decision taken individually would be indicative of significant judicial deference to arbitration and arbitral awards. Together, they show the challenges that parties may face when attempting to avoid both an arbitration clause and/or a highly adverse, perhaps even peculiar, result.
Construction contracts in New York and in other states frequently include provisions that bar recovery of damages for delay and require extra work to be authorized in writing. These types of provisions are enforceable. Exceptions exist that will permit recovery of delay damages and for extra work in the face of these exculpatory provisions. In Bricklayers Ins. & Welfare Fund v. Minhas Gen. Contrs. Co., LLC, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 151965, Judge Frederic Block sitting in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, denied summary judgment finding triable issues of material fact. Subcontractors and general contractors have limited leverage to remove these types of provisions from the contract. Nonetheless, review of project records by a knowledgeable attorney may well reveal facts to overcome these provisions.